The Muslims Who Love The Gays
February 11th, 2013
Last week’s historic vote on gay marriage in the British House of Commons was noteworthy not just for the quality of the speeches, such as this one by MP David Lammy, but also for how Muslim MPs voted.
Five Labour Muslim MPs supported gay marriage as did one Conservative. Three other MPs who could not attend had previously stated their support, two Conservatives and one Labour. Only one Muslim MP, the Conservative Rehman Chisti, joined the scores of MPs citing ‘religious grounds’ in their opposition.
Many MPs explicitly said that they took their orders from the Vatican, or cited Bible verses in the debate. That seven out of eight Muslim MPs did the opposite should be better known. It’s unfortunate that it is not as it would probably surprise many, although it should not.
Muslim MPs only arrived in any numbers in Britain at the last election but both locally in Britain as well as in other Western democracies numerous Muslim politicians have shown themselves to be gay friendly and supportive of LGBT rights. The sole Muslim member of the US House of Representatives, Keith Ellison, has a 100% Rating from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). HRC President Joe Solmonese calls him “a true champion”.
Although senior Muslim organizations joined the opposition led by the English and Scottish Catholic Churches to the marriage bill, you would hardly know it — a source of anger to some Muslims. In contrast to various Bishops, there have been no headlines about the latest outrageous statement from prominent Muslim clerics claiming that civilization is about to end.
Why not? Perhaps because any assumption that British Muslims are opposed to LGBT equality is somewhat dashed not just by these MPs actions but also by polls. One in 2011 found that British Muslims are more likely to strongly agree with the statement ‘I am proud of how Britain treats gay people’ than are people of no religion. Only Sikhs were more likely to strongly agree.
According to journalist Brian Whitaker:
However much Muslims may disapprove of gay sex, opposing discrimination on principle serves the interests of Muslims and gay people alike.
He notes that the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), the major representative body, formally declared its support in 2007 for the Equality Act outlawing discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
The MPs who votes for gay marriage supported the position made by the most senior Muslim MP, Sadiq Khan, the Shadow Justice Secretary, who said he voted in favor of the legislation “because I believe that this is fundamentally an issue of equality.”
One, Nadhim Zahawi, made a point in debating a Christian Same-Sex Marriage MP opponent from his own Conservative Party, arguing, like Prime Minister David Cameron has, that:
“I think as Conservatives we should be supporting civil partnerships moving towards marriage between a man and a man, and a woman and a woman, because having a fabric of society that is held together by strong relationships is a conservative value.”
Several of the MPs represent large Muslim communities, such as Rushanara Ali in East London. Her seat was famously won by the anti-Iraq war left-wing MP George Galloway after Labour kicked him out and he formed the Respect Party as an odd coalition between Trotskyists and Muslims. Galloway, now representing a different seat, voted in favor of gay marriage, and that doesn’t seem to have gone down well with East London Respect supporters.
Galloway was accused in the 2010 election campaign by Peter Tatchell of appeasing homophobic sections of the Muslim community. MPs like Rushanara Ali may well see some dirty tricks, and may well lose local support in the 2015 election, because of their gay marriage vote.
Homosexuality and Islam has recently come right to the fore in Britain as an issue for Muslim communities, highlighted by a long running storyline about a gay Muslim character in the top rating soap opera East Enders, as well as numerous stories running on the the BBC’s radio network catering for Britain’s Asian communities.
So it’s not surprising that the Labour MP’s vote is, away from the mainstream media spotlight, causing some consternation, and not just in the UK but also in Pakistan, from where much of Britain’s Muslim population originates.
Others are arguing that, as the writer Abdullah al Andalusi puts it, the MPs actions just shows why voting and Western-style politics is not something that good Muslims should engage in. It’s all corruption. Voting is “intellectual inconsistent with the concept of sovereignty to God alone (not man) but naive, and self-defeating”, he writes.
But there are also many comments like this one wondering why Muslims are in a lather about this issue and not ‘more important’ ones:
Why is it that the Muslim community wakes up and turns their attention to Muslim MPs on non-issues that quite frankly doesn’t really affect their society at large. BUT chooses to sleep when Muslim MPs make efforts to build strategies to improve general society at large that have a direct impact on the Muslim community?
In short, people are comfortable sitting on their sofas bad-mouthing MPs on non-issues but can’t stand up and show support for our Muslim MPs on day-to-day issues that affect them directly. It doesn’t always have to be religious issues you know everyone has a duty to serve society in general regardless of creed.
Please tell me, am I missing something here.
Muslim politicians everywhere in the West have battled assumptions about their political views from Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Kamal Qureshi, a Member of the Danish Parliament, says that:
Because I have a Muslim background people kept expecting me to have a certain attitude. Equal rights were one of my issues, and soon LGBT rights became my issue. I was one of the first people to attend a gay parade in Denmark who was not gay himself. At first there was opposition within the Parliament and even within my own party, but I said that this was an opportunity to make clear if we really believed in equality or if we did not. And after struggle my party (Socialist People’s Party) accepted this.
Gay marriage backer Saqib Ali, a Representative in Maryland, says that his position is nothing to do with his faith in Islam but a decision he made as a politician representing his constituents with and without faith backgrounds:
If I tried to enforce religion by law – as in a theocracy – I would be doing a disservice to both my constituents and to my religion.
After Scottish Muslim clerics called for pro-gay marriage politicians to be voted against, Hanzala Malik, a Labour member of the Scottish parliament, said that although they had every right to their opinions:
People of any community are living in the real world and want more than a single view on faith to be the focus of an elected representative. The Muslim community expects others to give us freedom so why would we deny it to others? And to say this could affect the outcome of the election is just pie in the sky.
Threats of vote-denial or being called names is not, unfortunately, the only risk which some Muslim politicians have taken to support LGBT rights. The Dutch MP Ahmed Marcouch has been called a traitor for his encouragement of integration and his prize winning work promoting gay rights in the Moroccan community in the Netherlands.
In 2004 the Hijab-wearing NDP candidate Itrath Syed in Vancouver was excommunicated along with her parents from her local Mosque, one they had helped to build, because of her politics. In an angry open letter she argued that:
Muslims in Canada must be clear that we can not demand our own equality in Canada, our own rights to be who we are, while also calling for the rights of others to be restricted. If the principle of equality under Canadian law is compromised, it will be compromised for all minority communities.
I am not running for leadership of the Muslim community, I am running for a position in Canadian government. I am not asked about my religious views, I am asked about my views on Canadian law. These are two completely separate things. As we all know because we make those distinctions every day of our lives.
The stories of these pro-gay British Muslim MPs as well as the others I’ve cited as well as many more around Europe deserve to be better known. But it should also be pointed out that, like the British Conservative politician Chisti, there are also others in conservative parties who aren’t supportive of marriage equality — but that’s because of their politics. People like the very prominent Dutch Muslim Christian Democrat MP Coşkun Çörüz.
And then there is Alabama State Rep. Yusuf Salaam, the Democratic politician who introduced a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage…
Lammy in the British parliament debate
February 8th, 2013
This is a bit late, but well worth listening to:
What I find fascinating is that certain events take on a global importance. As MP Lammy discusses Rosa Parks, you can sense how a tiny moment of personal dignity can change the world.
Marriage Bill Formally Introduced in British Parliament
January 24th, 2013
As expected, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill was formally introduced in Parliament, kicking off a process which is expected to lead to a second reading on February 5. The legislation will prohibit the Church of England from marrying same-sex couples, but will allow all other religious denominations to provide it if they so choose. According to the BBC, religious groups supporting the bill include Quakers, Unitarians and Reformed Judaism.
The bill will be officially published on Friday ahead of Tuesday’s debate. The bill has divided Conservatives, with David Cameron giving his M.P.s a free vote on the bill. If the bill passes its second reading, it will then go to a committee for further evaluation before returning to the House for its third and final reading. It will then go to the House of Lords.
British Evangelical Pastor Endorses Same-Sex Marriage
January 16th, 2013
I’m not familiar with Rev. Steve Chalke, pastor of Waterloo’s Oasis Church, but The Independent describes him as “a prominent evangelical pastor.” Chalke has posted a lengthy explanation (one that he calls “abridged”) on his web site which discusses the UK government’s plan to extend marriage to same-sex couple. Saying that he feels “both compelled and afraid to write this article,” and after laying out a few caveats (“Promiscuity is always damaging and dehumanising,” for example), he then jumps into the heart of his message:
One tragic outworking of the Church’s historical rejection of faithful gay relationships is our failure to provide homosexual people with any model of how to cope with their sexuality, except for those who have the gift of, or capacity for, celibacy. In this way we have left people vulnerable and isolated. When we refuse to make room for gay people to live in loving, stable relationships, we consign them to lives of loneness, secrecy and fear. It’s one thing to be critical of a promiscuous lifestyle – but shouldn’t the Church consider nurturing positive models for permanent and monogamous homosexual relationships?
In autumn 2012 I conducted a dedication and blessing service following the Civil Partnership of two wonderful gay Christians. Why? Not to challenge the traditional understanding of marriage – far from it – but to extend to these people what I would do to others – the love and support of our local Church.
Chalke spends the bulk of his essay exploring many of the Biblical passages which have been used to justify rejection of gay people. He also explores the Bible’s treatment of women’s roles and slavery and wonders why the church today applies a different standard to those passages from the one they apply to others. Then he gets to why he believes its important for the church to get its act together and understand the damages that its inconsistent readings have caused:
Why am I so passionate about this issue? Because people’s lives are at stake. Numerous studies show that suicide rates among gay people, especially young people, are comparatively high. Church leaders sometimes use this data to argue that homosexuality is unhealthy when tragically it’s anti-gay stigma, propped up by Church attitudes, which, all too often, drives these statistics.
I believe that when we treat homosexual people as pariahs and push them outside our communities and churches; when we blame them for what they are; when we deny them our blessing on their commitment to lifelong, faithful relationships, we make them doubt whether they are children of God, made in his image.
So, I face a hard choice; a choice between the current dominant view of what scripture tells us about this issue and the one I honestly think it points us to. This is why I seek to speak and write openly and, I hope, graciously, to encourage a compassionate, respectful and honest conversation that might lead to our churches becoming beacons of inclusion.
Euro Court: Religious Beliefs Don’t Justify Discrimination
January 15th, 2013
In four cases brought by people who say their Christian beliefs prohibit them from providing services to same-sex couples, the European Court of Human Rights ruled today that their beliefs do not justify discrimination. The ruling upheld British laws which ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. According to a press release from the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights:
In the first case, Lillian Ladele was a civil registrar in London. She was dismissed because she refused officiating at civil partnership ceremonies for same-sex couples after it became legal in 2005. She claimed she was discriminated because of her faith.
The Court ruled there had been no discrimination, and that British courts—who upheld her dismissal—had struck the right balance between her right to freedom of religion, and same-sex couples’ right not to be discriminated.
In the second case, Gary McFarlane was a counsellor providing psycho-sexual therapy to couples. He was dismissed for refusing to work with same-sex couples, arguing this was incompatible with his beliefs. The Court ruled unanimously that there had been no violation of his right to freedom of belief.
The ruling may be appealed within the next three months.
Update: Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly Alliance Defense Fund) is mentioned in the official ruling (PDF: 515KB/53 pages) as a third party intervener.
England’s marriage law to include church weddings
December 10th, 2012
I’m a massive supporter of marriage and I don’t want gay people to be excluded from a great institution.
“But let me be absolutely 100 per cent clear – if there is any church or any synagogue or any mosque that doesn’t want to have a gay marriage it will not, absolutely must not, be forced to hold it.
This is expected to face opposition from the Anglican Church and the Catholic Church along with conservative members of his own party. It had been the government’s intent to allow same-sex marriages only in civil settings (much like civil unions) but protest by Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Jews led to the “opt-in” provision.
The legislation is expected to be considered before the end of 2013.
Britain Suspends All Foreign Aid To Uganda
November 18th, 2012
Aid to the Ugandan prime minister’s office was frozen in August, following allegations of fraud, while an independent forensic audit was ordered. Greening has now suspended other bilateral aid, which is spent through Uganda‘s financial systems, known as direct financial aid.
…”Britain has frozen all UK aid spent through the Ugandan government. This is a result of initial evidence emerging from our ongoing forensic audit of the office of the prime minister, which indicates aid money may have been misused,” said DfID. “We are extremely concerned by these preliminary findings and we will assess the decision further when we have considered the full findings of the report. Unless the government of Uganda can show that UK taxpayers’ money is going towards helping the poorest people lift themselves out of poverty, this aid will remain frozen and we will expect repayment and administrative and criminal sanctions.”
Auditors discovered that joint foreign aid funding from Ireland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden to the tune of €12 million (£10 million, US$15 million) have mysteriously shown up in the private bank accounts of officials in prime minister Patrick Amama Mbabazi’s office. Those countries and Britain suspended its aid to the Prime Minister’s office in August, and Britain has now expanded that freeze to include the entire Ugandan government. Britain was due to provide £11.1 million (US$17.7 million) in direct aid between now and the end of March. Total bilateral aid for the year was set for £98.9 million (US$157 million), but it’s not clear how much of that bilateral aid has already been spent.
British Mental Health Group Calls Conversion Therapy Unethical
October 2nd, 2012
The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, the U.K.’s largest professional organization for psychotherapists, has issued a new policy statement (PDF: 627KB/1 page) which reminds members that “there is no scientific, rational or ethical reason” to try to change someone’s sexual orientation:
The British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP) is dedicated to social diversity, equality and inclusivity of treatment without discrimination of any kind. BACP opposes any psychological treatment such as ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality is a mental disorder, or based on the premise that the client/patient should change his/her sexuality.
BACP recognises the PAHO/WHO (2012) recent position statement that practices such as conversion or reparative therapies ‘have no medical indication and represent a severe threat to the health and human rights of the affected persons’.
BACP recognises that the diversity of human sexualities is compatible with normal mental health and social adjustment (Royal College of Psychiatrists). A recent research review (King, et al 2007) showed that those who do not identify as heterosexual may be misunderstood by some therapists, who see the client/patient’s sexuality as the root cause of their presenting issue. The ability to appreciate differences between people, to commit to equality of opportunity, and to avoid discrimination against people or groups contrary to their legitimate personal or social circumstances, is central to ethical and professional practice (BACP 2010, Ethical Framework).
BACP believes that socially inclusive, non-judgemental attitudes to people who identify across the diverse range of human sexualities will have positive consequences for those individuals, as well as for the wider society in which they live. There is no scientific, rational or ethical reason to treat people who identify within a range of human sexualities any differently from those who identify solely as heterosexual.
The BACP cites a recent statement from the Pan American Health Organization which called on governments to impose “adequate sanctions” against Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE), which PAHO said, “health professionals who offer ‘reparative therapies’ align themselves with social prejudices and reflect a stark ignorance in matters of sexuality and sexual health.”
In 2010, the British Medical Association approved a motion saying the National Health Service should not fund SOCE. That statement came after a reporter for The Independent went undercover and reported on a NARTH-affiliated therapist who offered SOCE. In the first session, the therapist sought to uncover the source of the reporter’s homosexuality by asking about childhood neglect, whether he had a difficult birth, and whether anyone in the family practiced Freemasonry. That therapist, later identified as Lesley Pilkington, was expelled from the BACP last May for professional malpractice.
UK To Cut Aid To Countries Which Persecute Gay People
October 10th, 2011
British Prime Minister David Cameron has warned that countries which persecute gay people will find their foreign aid budget cut. International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell also told the Daily Mail that Britain has already cut aid to Malawi over it abuse of human right violation, citing the country’s conviction of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, a same-sex couple who entered into a traditional engagement ceremony in violation of that nation’s anti-sodomy laws.
Mitchell’s comments however don’t quite line up with the chain of events in Malawi. The couple were pardoned by Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika in May, 2010. Earlier this year, a Wikileaks cable revealed that the British ambassador warned that Malawi’s President was becoming increasingly autocratic and intolerant of criticism. Mutharika responded by expelling the ambassador while violently cracking down on dissent in the impoverished nation, thereby proving the ambassador’s point. Britain began cutting aid to Malawi in July 2011.
Malawi received about £200 million from Britain over the past three years, before Britain announced cuts of £19 million.
Mitchell also cited Uganda (which is due to received £70 million this year) and Ghana (which received £36 million each year) as possible targets for future cuts if they enact further criminal legislation against gay people. No mention was made of Zimbabwe, which received £69 million last year.
UK Reverses Decision To Deny Visa To Ugandan LGBT Advocate
August 22nd, 2011
Last week, we reported that Britain’s Border Agency (UKBA) has denied a visa for Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG) founder and executive Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, who was scheduled to open a pride celebration in Derry, Northern Ireland later this month. Today, Paul Canning reports that UKBA has reversed its decision and granted Kasha a visa:
Kasha was today granted a visa to visit Northern Ireland. When reapplying in Kampala she reports it being granted extremely quickly. We understand that there has been significant lobbying regarding the previous visa denial, in particular of the UK Foreign Office.
UK Denies Visa for Ugandan LGBT Advocate
August 18th, 2011
Britain’s Border Agency (UKBA) has denied a visa for Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG) founder and executive Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, who was scheduled to open a pride celebration in Derry, Northern Ireland later this month. Paul Canning reports that a UKBA spokesperson said that her visa was denied because Immigration officials feared that she might not return home after travelling to Britain. According to that spokesperson:
Each application to enter the UK is considered on its individual merits and in accordance with the immigration rules”.
“The onus is on the applicant to demonstrate that they meet the immigration rules. This may include providing evidence of financial ties to their home country which would indicate that they intend to return home at the end of their proposed visit.”
“Our rules are firm but fair and where insufficient evidence is provided visa applications may be refused, though the individual is able to apply again at any time and any new evidence will be considered.”
UKBA denies that Nabagesera’s LGBT advocacy was a factor in their decision.
Despite UKBA’s decision, Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera has strong ties to the LGBT community in Uganda, and she has travelled abroad numerous times as part of her advocacy, returning every time to her were back home. She spoke last weekend at an international meeting of Amnesty International in Geneva. Earlier this year, she wasawarded the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights by a consortium of ten international organizations. In May, she debated Ugandan MP David Bahati, the sponsor of draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill on Voice of America television. Last week, Nabagesera led a major educational campaign in Uganda to counter the widespread homophobia in that country. In other words, none of this looks like the profile of someone who flees a country at the first opportunity. Nabagesera clearly has ties and commitments in Uganda, and her commitments have been recognized internationally. All of this makes UKBA’s decision very puzzling and troubling.
Nigerian Asylum Seeker in UK Threatened With “Jungle Justice”
April 14th, 2011
Paul Canning reports that a Nigerian newspaper has published a death threat against Uche Nnabuife, a gay Nigerian who is seeking asylum in the United Kingdom. British immigration authorities say they will deport Nnabuife on April 20.
National Times,a nationally circulated newspaper in Nigeria, printed an article warning Nnabuife that if he returned to Nigeria, he would be subjected to “jungle justice” and “his body would not be found”:
According to a reliable source, one Uche Nnabuife, a gay Nigerian has been warned not to come back to Nigeria or his body would not be found.
Nnabuife who is currently in Europe has been warned by a friend, Nnamdi Okafor who had revealed to him about a movement against the return of gay Nigerians headed by one Toyin Adelaja. The movement it is gathered believes that “Africans are not gay people but these Nigerian gays are only trying to imitate the white man’s culture and should stay there in their land”. The movement expressed disgust that “homosexuality is unafrican and any Nigerian found practising it or confirmed to have practised it within or outside Nigeria should expect jungle justice from the movement.”
Canning reports that Nnabuife has also been threatened on the internet as well. Rev Rowland Jide Macauley, a gay Nigerian priest who currently resides in London, told Canning, “‘Jungle Justice’ in Nigeria is a serious problem, people take the laws into their own hands and for the headline to read such, we truly have to give this all the possible worst interpretation.”
Nnabuife has been detained by British immigration authorities since November 2009. British authorities have maintained that Nnabuife’s claim of being gay are not credible, despite testimony from his ex-boyfriend and other close friends. Generally the Home Office has routinely rejected asylum claims which cite fears of persecution for sexual orientation. Canning believes that Nnabuife’s prior conviction of cannabis possession is playing a role in his pending deportation.
UK Lifts Gay Blood Donor Ban
April 12th, 2011
But you have to be celibate for ten years before you can donate.
UK LGBT Advocate: “Christian Homophobes Should Not Be Criminalized”
January 12th, 2011
The American First Amendment has been interpreted very broadly throughout much of the history of the United States. Courts have on occasion allowed a few limits to where free speech can be exercised (free speech zones during political conventions, exclusion zones around abortion clinics, etc.) but efforts to place limits on speech itself, regardless of how many people it offends, have been consistently struck down.
Such is not the case in Great Britain and many other western countries. Last April, British pastor was arrested and detained for standing on a street corner and preaching that homosexuality is a sin. He was charged with violating the Public Order Act by making “threatening, abusive or insulting” remarks to passersby. The case was dropped before it could go to trial, and the preacher received £7,000 in damages and an apology from the Chief Constable. UK LGBT advocate Peter Tatchell writes that the arrest should not have happened in the first place:
As a campaigner for gay rights, I disagree with Mr Mcalpine’s intolerant views. But as a defender of free speech, I endorse his right to express them. Indeed, I had offered to testify in his defence, had his case gone to court.
Freedom of speech is one of the hallmarks of a civilised society. Mr Mcalpine’s views were homophobic, but the fact that he was treated as a criminal for expressing them, shocked me. The officer who arrested him, although doubtless well-intentioned, interpreted the law in a harsh, authoritarian manner. Mr Mcalpine was not aggressive, threatening or intimidating. He did not incite violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) people; unlike some extremist Christians in Uganda and Nigeria.
Tatchell notes that the Public Order Act can lead to arbitrary applications:
Contrast his case with my experience. In 1994, the Islamist fundamentalist group Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) held a mass rally at Wembley Arena. Its members advocated killing gay people and ‘unchaste’ women. They heaped hatred and abuse on Jews and Hindus. Together with five of my colleagues from the gay rights group OutRage!, I staged a peaceful, lawful counter-protest. It was six of us against 6,000 of them. Some members of HT threatened: “We will track you down and kill you.”
Despite these criminal incitements to murder us, they were not arrested. We were. Our free speech was denied. We were charged under the Public Order Act. In contrast to Mr Mcalpine’s case, the police did not drop the charges and apologise, let alone compensate us. It took nearly two years of lengthy, costly legal battles for me to finally win an acquittal.
Congrats Joe McElderry, welcome out
July 31st, 2010
Britian’s 2009 X-Factor winner, Joe McElderry chose to publicly reveal his sexual orientation this week. And so far the response has been positive. (Daily Mail)
‘I have had nothing but support from you and many of you have been very open in saying that you will continue to support me whatever my sexuality.
‘It is important to me to let you know first, so that you know the stories in the papers are true. I made the choice to speak openly about this.
‘Everything is going well and I’m really happy to be able to move forward from here
Here’s wishing Joe much success.
British Medical Association: Ex-Gay Therapy Should Not Be Funded By NHS
July 2nd, 2010
The British Medical Association, meeting at its annual conference in Brighton, has passed a motion saying that the National Health Service should not fund sexual orientation change therapy and called on the British Department of Health to investigate cases where conversion therapy has been funded with NHS money, and to prevent it happening in future.
In 2009, the journal BMC Psychiatry published a survey of UK psychologists, psychotherapists, and psychiatrists, and found that 4% of therapists reported that they would attempt to change a client’s sexual orientation if the client asked for it, and that 17% reported having provided sexual orientation change therapy to least one patient. Of those treated, 40% were part of the NHS even though homosexuality is not listed as a mental illness. Earlier this year, the Independent published the results of an undercover investigation of a therapist who offered ex-gay therapy while allegedly billing the NHS for her services.
118 British MP’s Sign Motion Condemning Uganda’s “Kill the gays” Bill
April 6th, 2010
One hundred and eighteen Members of Britain’s Parliament signed on to what is known as an “Early Day Motion” condemning Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which would impose lifetime sentences for LGBT people as well as the death penalty under certain circumstances. Early Day Motions, or EDMs, are formal motions submitted for debate in the House of Commons. EDM’s are not voted on by the House, and few are actually debated on the floor of the house. Instead, they are used to express the views of individual MP’s or to draw attention to specific concerns, events, or causes.
ANTI-HOMOSEXUALITY BILL IN UGANDA
That this House calls on the British Government and the European Union to press the government of Uganda not to proceed with the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which violates the equality and non-discrimination provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter of Human and People’s Rights; abhors that this Bill, currently before the Uganda parliament, proposes the death penalty for repeat homosexual acts, extends the existing penalty of life imprisonment for anal intercourse to all other same-sex behaviour, including the mere touching of another person with the intent to have homosexual relations and imposes life imprisonment for contracting a same-sex marriage; notes that under the provisions of the Bill membership of providing funding for gay organisations advocating gay human rights and providing condoms or safer sex advice to gay people will result in a sentence of between five and seven years for promoting homosexuality and that a person in authority who fails to report offenders to the police within 24 hours will incur a three year prison sentence; further notes that this monstrous proposed law contains extra-territorial jurisdiction so that it will apply to Ugandans who breach its provisions whilst living abroad, even in countries where such behaviour is not a criminal offence, and that such Ugandans living overseas could be subject to extradition, trial and punishment in Uganda; and demands that the Ugandan government uphold international humanitarian law by abandoning the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, decriminalising same-sex acts between consenting adults in private, and outlawing discrimination against gay people.
The motion, which was jointly written by MP Harry Cohen and Outrage!’s LGBT advocate Peter Tatchell, garnered 118 signatures. Sixteen Conservative MP’s joined 63 Labour, 33 Liberal Democrat, and 6 other MP’s from various parties (including one independent) to condemn the bill. The House consists of 646 members. EDM’s remain open for signatures for the duration of Parliament. The current Parliament will be dissolved on April 12 with elections called for May 6.
UK Tories Publish “Rainbow List” of Out Gay Candidates
March 8th, 2010
Imagine if someday there were a similar headline for the GOP:
In the latest development in his campaign to show how dramatically the Tories have changed, David Cameron has published the party’s first-ever official list of openly gay MPs. The Conservatives say they have 20 openly gay candidates standing in the Election. Of those, 11 told party chiefs they were ‘happy’ to be named in the first authorised list of gay Conservative candidates.
…[Openly gay Tory MP Nick] Herbert said: ‘A successful political party ought to look like the country it seeks to govern. If we were truly representative, we would have 99 women, 16 black or ethnic minority and ten gay MPs.’
UK Scouts Condemn Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill
March 1st, 2010
On first blush, that’s doesn’t look like a headline that would strike fear in the hearts of those who support Uganda’s proposed “kill the gays” bill, but there is an important angle to it. Ugandan Member of Parliament David Bahati, sponsor of the notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill, also happens to be chairman of Uganda’s Scouts Board.
According to a press release from UK LGBT advocate Peter Tatchell, the Chief Executive of the Scout Association UK, Derek Twine, has condemned the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill as “discriminatory and contrary to the sanctity of life, [and] completely incompatible with our interpretation of the values of our worldwide Scouting Movement.” Twine continues:
We have already drawn our grave concerns on this to the attention of the Secretary General of the World Organisation of the Scout Movement (WOSM), and we are subsequently aware that the issues are now subject both to WOSM’s direct engagement with the Chief Scout of Uganda (Mrs Maggie Kigozi) and to ongoing global consideration by members of the World Scout Committee.”
“Scouting is very big in Uganda and Mr Bahati derives great prestige from his position as Chairman of the Scout Association of Uganda. If we can get him removed from office it will be a significant personal blow to him. He’ll be weakened and his credibility undermined.
“OutRage! is urging the disaffiliation of the Ugandan scout organisation from the world scouting movement, as a way of adding further pressure on the Ugandan government to drop the Bill. Our request for disaffiliation was immediately forwarded by the Scout Association UK to the World Organisation of the Scout Movement (WOSM) in Geneva.
BBC Faces Furor in UK’s Parliament
January 4th, 2010
British newspapers are reporting that the BBC is facing mounting criticism in the UK’s Parliament over an online poll which asked, “Should homosexuals face execution?” The online forum elicited 206 published comments before it was closed.
Labour’s Eric Joyce, who told MPs about the online forum, said he was “completely mystified” as to why it had been set up. “We should be looking at what is going on in Uganda with abhorrence,” he said. “The BBC are probably thinking they are communicating with people in Africa. As it happens, everyone who has replied comes from somewhere else.”
Lynne Featherstone, Lib Dem youth and equality spokesman, said: “Suggesting the state-sponsored murder of gay people is OK as a legitimate topic for debate is deeply offensive. The BBC are only fanning the flames of hatred. They must act and apologise for their gross insensitivity.’
The debate was published by the World Service Africa Have Your Say forum, which is part of the BBC’s main news website. Its editor David Stead last night insisted he had thought long and hard about posing the question.
Well, as long as they thought long and hard about it, I guess that makes it all okay then. Incredibly, despite the worldwide outcry a BBC spokesman claimed that it had not yet received an official complaint about the question.